Eighty-seven drunk drivers were arrested in Gauteng at the weekend.
Traffic police spokeswoman Busaphi Nxumalo said on Sunday: “One man, driving from Rosslyn in Pretoria to Soshanguve, had a breathalyser reading of 0.67mg, so he was almost three times over the limit and extremely drunk.
“Officers also detained a diplomat from Accra, Ghana, for being drunk while driving. At first, officers couldn’t tell he was a diplomat as he wasn’t carrying his diplomat card with him and was driving a car with a local number plate. After he was confirmed to be a diplomat, he was handed over to diplomatic police,” Nxumalo said.
Angus MacArthur, a breathalyser entrepreneur, said part of the problem in the country was that people did not realise how easy it was to reach the alcohol limit.
“People don’t know the impact that it has on their driving ability.”
“The hardest thing is that no matter how much we shout against drunk driving, people don’t listen and it seems as if our leaders themselves don’t care,” he said.
The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.05g per 100ml, while the legal breath limit is less than 0.24mg in 1000ml of breath.
Justice Project SA chairman Howard Dembovsky said another issue was that the National Road Traffic Act did not provide for minimum sentences for drunken driving.
The law stated that any person convicted must have their driving licence suspended for a minimum of five years on the first conviction and 10 years on the second conviction.
“It is our constitutional right to be protected from drunk drivers.“
“The most effective way to deal with them is for conviction and punishment to be swift, but it becomes tricky because, while suspension of licences is mandatory, the magistrate may use discretion and not suspend the licence if a person gives valid reasons,” Dembovsky said.
“Part of the problem is that, apart from blood tests taking too long, that particular provision is often not invoked.”
Acting transport minister Dikobe Ben Martins said on Sunday data collected since the start of the festive season indicated a worrying trend of people driving drunk and dangerously.
“We are warning you. Your days are numbered.”
“Breadwinners are taken away from their families when some of these fatal crashes occur. People are left paralysed with no means of helping themselves because of someone getting excited by drugs and alcohol.
Dembovsky said they had already given up telling people they could get criminal records for drunk driving.
“There is a misconception that when you talk about being drunk, it means a person is falling over. Many people drive drunk because they don’t see themselves as drunk.
“People just don’t care. “
“Now we tell them they can kill themselves, never mind others.
“They care only about what affects them personally. People must lose the bravado, you’re not invincible, you’re not immortal.”
Johannesburg metro police spokesman Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar said 1730 people had been arrested in the city for being over the limit between November 15 and December 21.
Another 33 were arrested on the weekend of December 22-23, but only five arrests had occurred in the period since Christmas Day.
The numbers showed that the intense operations during the period under scrutiny had worked, he said. - The Star